More than 30 governors have received threatening letters from an anti-government group calling itself Guardians of the Free Republics. The letters warn the governors to leave office within three days or be forcibly removed.
"It basically said, resign, ask for forgiveness and then we'll reinstate you, and if you sign this we'll consider you re-elected," Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, told reporters Friday.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating. They do not believe the group is violent.
"The FBI has been very careful to say there aren't specific threats in this letter," says Matt DeCample, Beebe's spokesman.
But investigators are concerned that the letter may spur others to violence.
Rejecting All Forms Of Government
The FBI has informed all 50 governors that they will receive the letter. It sees the group as subscribing to the "sovereign citizen" philosophy, which finds government to be illegitimate.
"These are individuals who reject all forms of government and they believe they are emancipated from all the responsibilities associated with being U.S. citizens, such as paying taxes and obeying laws," FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A list of goals on the Texas-based Guardians group's Web site includes the end of "tax prosecutions for resisting the transfer of private wealth to foreign banking cartels such as I.R.S. (former Puerto Rico Bureau of Taxation)" and issuing "orders to the military and police powers to enforce the Peoples' divine rights of birth."
A Resurgence in Extremism
A DHS report last year found that "a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in right-wing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity."
That report was controversial, but extremist groups are receiving additional attention from law enforcement following the arrest of nine Christian militia members last weekend.
Several members of Congress received threats or had offices damaged in the wake of passage of the health care law last month.
Security for Governors
Governors often receive round-the-clock protection from state troopers or other security details. State capitols, however, tend to be less secure than Congress, where all visitors pass through weapons screening.
In Nevada, screening machines for visitors and packages were added to the main entrance of the capitol in Carson City as a precaution. Officials in Pennsylvania, Utah and Vermont have stepped up security as well.
Some governors took the letter in stride, noting that they receive threats routinely. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, suggested that this letter has received additional attention because it was sent to so many governors.
"I'm just focused on doing my job and letting security worry about the threats," Beebe, the Arkansas governor, said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report